Friday, March 14, 2008

Wedding Cake

I made my wedding cake last week...


Creamsicle Cake
Orange Vanilla Cake with Grand Marnier Buttercream frosting
Orange Fondant with Brush Embroidered Royal Icing

This is a tasting cake that I decided to cut into instead of destroying the lovely wedding cake.


Aerial View of Cake


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Final: Chocolate Banana Rum Mousse Cake


In a smidgen over 2.5 hours, we were required to construct a chocolate banana rum mousse cake, that consisted of the following components-all required from scratch;

  • Chocolate Genoise, cut into 3 layers
  • Chocolate mousse, made from Creme Anglaise
  • Chocolate band (that is around the cake)
  • Chocolate shavings
  • Chocolate Sauce
  • Stabilized whipped cream
  • Simple Syrup, made with Rum
  • Bananas, of course
I was 2 minutes late delivering my last exam and was determined not to do the same this time. Per Alice Medrich's teachings, I sketched out the final construction of the cake, which was;
  • 1 layer of genoise
  • Simple Syrup
  • Chocolate mousse
  • Bananas
This step was repeated once, and the final layer of genoise was placed on top of that. Then one more layer of simple syrup and stabilized whipped cream. For decor, chocolate detail was added.

First, I made the genoise. Then I melted chocolate and spread it over mylar to create the band. When the chocolate settled a bit, I moved the band into an 8" mold and refrigerated it. Then, I made the creme anglaise, reserved 1/2 of it for sauce, and made chocolate mousse. Then, I sliced the cake layers and put the cake together. It really took a while, but I finished with 5 minutes to spare!

This exam encompassed a great deal of what we've learned in class-genoise, mousse, creme anglaise, working with chocolate, and plating. We have one more test before graduation, which is a celebration cake.

Petit Fours - Beautiful Little Cakes

I could not wait to make petit four glaces! They are just the most beautiful desserts, ever. When I moved out to San Francisco (the first time), my friend Jen sent me a box from Neiman Marcus. I never thought that I could create the confections, but I proved myself wrong...



The only thing I would do differently with these is thin out the fondant more.

To construct these lovely little cakes, you need to make an almond sponge, called a joconde in a half sheet pan. Baking time is only about 10 minutes because it's so thin. After the cake is cooled, cut it into thirds. Then, using the jam of your choice, melt and strain, and spread jam over each layer and put one layer over the other. You also need to make and roll out the marzipan and place it over the top layer and cut into circles or squares and trim the sides.

After that, you should place the petit fours on a cake rack and pour the fondant (not the same thing as what is on wedding cakes, this is pronounced fond-ahnt) over the petit fours to cover completely, as what Jennifer is doing. Traditionally petit fours are pastel colors, so I colored mine a light yellow.


I also made chocolate filigree flowers to place atop each petit four.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chocolate and Sugar

Two of the most stressful classes during this second semester involved things I love to eat-chocolate and candy. One day was devoted to the heating and melding of sugar to create nougat (not my fave), marshmallows (yum), pate de fruit (fruit jellies), and my favorite...SALTED CARAMELS. Actually, the only thing better than salted caramels is chocolate covered salted caramels, but let me tell you, they are a labor of love.

Imagine 7 of us in the kitchen with various stages of boiling sugar, furiously trying to get the sugar to the right temperature without having it crystallize! Then, luckily, I scored some pectin at the beginning of class so I would have time to make the bonus pate de fruit. I've been feeling good about being able to do a bonus each week during the second semester.

Salted Caramels, Not-Quite Set Nougat, and Passion Fruit Pate de Fruit

The next week, we were the fortunate recipients of two classes on chocolate from the Chocolate Master, Alice Medrich. She we made her Tiger Cake, Flourless Chocolate Torte, White Chocolate Souffle, Medaliers, Jasmine infused Truffles and more. For more information on Alice Medrich's cookbooks, click here.

Then it was back to work to temper chocolate ourselves, which is a lot harder than it looks! To temper chocolate, we used Callebaut callets (tempered chocolate bits), brought several ounces to 122 degrees, then started added the seed callaits, bit by bit until the temp dropped to 84. Then we tested for temper. If it was tempered (which mine was not, well it was and then it wasn't), it's snap-worthy and shiny and hardens in 3-5 minutes. Then you bring the chocolate back up to 89 degrees and start playing.

Truly I loved doing filigree work and making beautiful designs. I also enjoyed making medaliers. We also made modeling chocolate from melted chocolate and glucose, and made chocolate roses, which was fun too! Here are some photos.

Chocolate Creations

Chocolate Rose made from Modeling Chocolate

After showing these items to my family and friends, it's clear to me that doing little things with chocolate REALLY impresses people, so I plan to do more of it, and I'll even get my temper right!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bread Therapy

One of the best things about school is the opportunity to learn many facets of the pastry realm, and possibly the most therapeutic is baking bread.

We made the breads below with dry (instant) active yeast as the leaving agent (as opposed to a barm with levain breads). We baked brioche (basically the creaming method) with a sponge added to it, challah, stolen, and wheat bread. We also baked baguettes. I have since baked Challah and got it right on my first try. I definitely owe it to my heritage-figures that the 2 Jewish girls in class made the prettiest Challahs :)


Brioche a Tete

My Bread Creations

European Cakes


The first semester at school focused on basic technique and the second semester is where we really get to have some fun! European cakes are generally made with a nut sponge or genoise (like the Princess cake above) and are therefore lower in fat than American cakes, but are truly elaborate and beautiful. We started the week tasked with making a Sacher Torte (chocolate almond cake with raspberry jam and chocolate glaze), a Zucherkirsch Torte (japonaise layers with a genoise layer, flavored with Kirsch and dusted with powdered sugar), a Gateau Marjolaine (a hazelnut daquoise with praline and mocha buttercream covered with gananche, and my favorite for bonus, a Princess cake. I was so determined to make the Swedish dessert, that I really hustled, stuck to my plan, and got it done.

The Princess Cake contains 1 layer of genoise, 1 layer of raspberry jam, another layer of genoise, a layer of pastry cream, another layer of genoise and finally stabilized whipped cream shaped like a dome with a thin layer of light green marizpan over the cake and a marzipan rose. I LOVED creating this beautiful cake, and my friend Lisa was the loving recipient of another one I made at home for her birthday!

Swedish Princess Cake

Lisa's Birthday Cake, with a Gold Bow around the cake

What's Inside the Princess Cake

Gateau Marjolaine


Zucherkirsch Torte


Sacher Torte

Plated Desserts


Plating desserts is one of my favorite things to do! I love creating something artistic and beautiful with food and having someone exclaim, "WOW!" before digging their fork in.

When plating desserts, several factors should be considered, including food trends-whether rustic looking is in or more structural/contemporary, the style of the restaurant and the visual and palate preferences of your customers. The contrast wheel of pastry plating illustrates certain texture, flavor, and temperature balances one can achieve on a plate. Chefs should aim for a contrast of delicate vs. robust taste, feel, aroma, and color.

In class we were tasked with creating two plated desserts. The first was assigned to us and the second was our choice. Inspired by my recent trip to Paris, I elected to create a Framboiser, which I constructed with 3 layers of phyllo (5 sheets with melted butter), creme mousselline, raspberries, raspberry sauce, and shaved chocolate. I worked really well in creating this dessert and got so excited when the result of my concept came into fruition.

I think this dish worked because of the contrasts in texture - crunchy phyllo vs. creamy mouselline, tart vs. sweet - raspberries and sweet phyllo and cream, and colors - white and bright pink for the sauce.



The next item was a Pineapple Upside Down Cake. The components of this dish were an individual sized cake with poached pineapples, a pineapple chip, and shaved chocolate. The challenge in this dish was to create something beautiful from a dessert whose flavors I am not that excited about. If I had to do it again, I would have garnished the dessert with the pineapple chip formed into a flower and made it look like a sunflower. One element I was really excited about though was my decision to flavor the creme chantilly with the pineapple poaching liquid. It has the most delicate aroma and flavor and added to the dish.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake